The Sherlock Problem
Disclaimer: I do not own Sherlock.
Note: For Dlvvanzor for her birthday.
Everyone agreed that John Watson was a good employee. He was kind and very polite. He had a great bedside manner and was very smart. He possessed an almost inhuman amount of patience and, though ridiculously overqualified, he was happy with whatever they were able to pay him. Though he had once dated their boss, he and Sarah had always kept things professional at work and remained friends after their break-up.
Really, there was only one thing preventing John from being the perfect employee and that was Sherlock.
No one actually knew who or what Sherlock was but he seemed to cause no shortage of trouble for John.
Whenever he had to miss a day of work, leave early, or arrive late he always said something about Sherlock and Sarah immediately understood though no one else did.
Maybe that wouldn't have been enough to get everyone guessing about how 'Sherlock' was some sort of magic word (one that only worked for John as several of the more daring had discovered) but there were also all those times when he literally ran out of the clinic in the middle of his way – supposedly injured leg be damned – shouting something about Sherlock.
"Sherlock blew up the toilet!"
"Sherlock smells gas!"
"I forgot to get food for Sherlock!"
"Mrs. Hudson texted me that Mycroft's over there talking to Sherlock right now!"
"Sherlock got animal control called to our flat!"
"Sherlock set the kitchen table on fire!"
These excuses that wouldn't have fooled even the most dim-witted of teachers investigating a pupil's absence quickly became pretty standard for John and everybody was talking about it.
Emma and Andrew were no exception.
"It's got to be a code word," Andrew said confidently. " 'Sherlock' isn't even a real word."
"It could be foreign," Emma suggested. "I don't think either of us are experts on foreign names."
"That doesn't mean that it's not still a code word," Andrew rallied after a moment's hesitance. "After all, code words have to be created somewhere even if it is just one of those random name generators. I bet 'Sherlock' is what one of those generators told John to name his elf or something."
Emma tilted her head. "Is Sherlock a particularly elfish name? Admittedly the only elf whose name I know is Legolas but…Well, actually, does Santa count as an elf?"
Andrew drew back. "What kind of a question is that? Is Santa an elf?"
Emma shrugged, refusing to be embarrassed. "Well, it's just that I don't know. There was that Christmas special where he lived with the Kringles. There were only four or five of them, though…"
"And he wasn't actually one of them, he was just adopted," Andrew pointed out.
"Here, I'll Google it," Emma offered, pulling out her phone and carefully typing in 'Is santa an elg' which Google rejected and searched as 'is Santa an elf.' She scanned the first results and clicked on the Yahoo Answers. "It would appear that though he is the head elf, he is not actually an elf."
"How is that even possible?" Andrew demanded.
"I don't know," Emma said, shrugging again. "Sherlock is much more of an elven name than Santa Claus or Saint Nicholas or Kris Kringle or Father Christmas or…whatever else he's called. But then, I'm just basing that on the fact that Sherlock sounds more like Legolas than any of those others."
"It sounds nothing like Legolas," Andrew disagreed.
Emma crossed her arms. "They both sound very elegant," she defended.
Andrew shook his head, deciding to not even go there. "It doesn't matter if 'Sherlock' is an elf name or not."
"Well you're the one who brought it up," Emma pointed out.
"Well now I'm un-bringing it up," Andrew said calmly.
"I don't think it works that way."
"So," Andrew said loudly, "do you think that Sherlock might be a code word?"
"A code word for what?" Emma asked blankly. "And I rather doubt it because he doesn't just say 'Sherlock 'and leave, he provides some sort of an explanation. Not much of an explanation but enough so that you know that he's in a hurry."
"I think he has something on Sarah, probably from back when they were dating, and so he's holding it over her head so he can do whatever he pleases and work whenever he wants to work," Andrew explained. "And of course he doesn't just say 'Sherlock'! That would make it extremely obvious that he was blackmailing her."
"You've already decided that it's the case regardless," Emma pointed out.
"Ah, but I am not believed," Andrew countered.
"Sarah would never allow herself to be blackmailed," Emma said confidently.
"All we know is that she would never allow herself to be caught being blackmailed," Andrew said stubbornly. "And depending on just how bad it is…"
"Fantasize about our boss on your own time, Andrew," Emma ordered.
Andrew flushed bright scarlet. "I-I wasn't!"
Emma remained unconvinced.
Andrew coughed. "Well, fine, you don't like my idea. What do you think it could possibly be then? Do you really think that there is some entity called 'Sherlock' who manages to wreak such havoc in John's life? I can't imagine why he would allow that; he's always so solid and dependable."
"Well, you know what they say," Emma replied. "It's always the quiet ones."
"I've always thought that was kind of a stupid sentiment," Andrew remarked. "It's not always the quiet ones because the obvious suspects are going out and getting up to all sorts of crap or else they wouldn't be the obvious suspects. It's true that you never expect the quiet ones – unless you believe in that saying – but that's just the result of not being the obvious suspect."
"We all know that John was in the war, maybe he just has a taste for trouble," Emma suggested.
Andrew rolled his eyes. "Please. Any taste any man could ever have for trouble is indulged quite enough in a warzone, even if he was a doctor and not a soldier."
"If you say so," Emma said doubtfully. "As for what it could be…I'm kind of thinking some sort of pet. Maybe a very rambunctious dog that really shouldn't be left indoor where it can set fire to things or break windows."
"I suppose that would explain the animal control thing," Andrew said slowly. "And you can't very well leave a dog tied up in your backyard if you live in London and don't have one. But I think that if he had a pet that was that destructive then his landlord would insist on him getting rid of it or kick him out."
"Unless the landlord was really understanding or John pays a lot on repair and upkeep," Emma argued. "I mean, what's going to happen to a dog if John's forced to get rid of it?"
"Somehow, I don't think that would be most people's concern if a dog managed to somehow blow up a toilet," Andrew said dryly.
"That…was probably an exaggeration or it would have been on the news," Emma decided. "And John's a great guy so maybe she just wants to keep him around. I can't imagine a more gracious tenant. My mum rents out, you know, and she's had to deal with some real nightmares. If it's clear that it's the both of them or none of them, maybe he picked John."
Andrew stared at her. "I don't care how much of an exaggeration it was, Sherlock managed to create a situation where the words 'Sherlock blew up the toilet' were applicable."
"He might have a flair for the dramatic," Emma suggested weakly.
Andrew laughed. "Somehow I don't see him as the dramatic type."
"Well, he said something about having a blog," Emma said defensively.
Andrew rolled his eyes. "So does my little sister. She writes terrible emo poetry in it. It really doesn't mean anything."
"Well, fine, if you don't think it's a dog then what do you think it is?" Emma challenged.
Andrew stared at her. "Blackmailing Sarah. We've already been over that."
Emma waved her hand impatiently. "Yes, yes, besides that?"
"Why do I need two theories?" Andrew demanded.
"Because I'm annoyed that you don't like mine," Emma said bluntly.
"Fine," Andrew said, sighing. He snapped his fingers suddenly. "I have no idea how a dog could let John know that he smelled gas or how John would know anything that was going on, unless his landlord called him or something, but what if he has a small child living with him?"
"So now Sherlock is a name?" Emma asked, raising an eyebrow.
"I have not disputed that Sherlock is a name for at least ten minutes," Andrew said virtuously.
Emma laughed. "Good for you. John hasn't been back in London for long enough to have a small child old enough to be left home alone."
"No one is arguing that his child should be left home alone," Andrew assured her. "Exploding toilet and whatnot. And anyway, who is to say that he didn't father the child before going off to war or he was granted custody of someone else's child? Maybe he even fosters or adopted. We don't know much about his home life."
"Well if he'd leave a small child that clearly cannot help but cause mayhem every other time he leaves the flat home alone then I would really hope the government did not give this child to him!" Emma exclaimed.
"Perhaps he cannot afford childcare," Andrew offered. "Living in London isn't cheap and childcare can cost as much as rent does. God knows that they don't pay us enough."
"If he can't afford to do something to prevent a child who sets fires to things from being unsupervised then I'm really not sure that he should be raising said child," Emma said, feeling awkward as she always did when she said something that could be misconstrued as prejudiced but that she just felt was common sense. Fires and small children were a terrible idea and had nothing to do with poor people's right to children.
Sure enough, Andrew gave her that look like he thought she might have said something offensive but wasn't positive enough to bring it up.
"Perhaps he does have childcare but whoever it is is just not very attentive or Sherlock is some sort of devil child and they are not equipped to handle someone like him," he said instead.
"Why wouldn't he just fire whoever it is if they weren't up for the task?" Emma challenged.
Andrew shrugged. "Maybe anybody better would be too expensive and he figures that having anybody there, no matter how ill-suited, is safer than leaving the kid by himself. I mean, it's possible for a child to crawl out of your sight for two seconds and ingest poison or choke on something even when you're watching him so there's no telling what they can get up to alone."
"Do you think we should call child services?" Emma wondered. "I mean, that poor child. That possibly disturbed given what John's said but still very poor child."
Andrew stared at her. "Are you kidding? We can't just go out and call child services!"
Emma put her hands on her hips and glared at him. "And why not? Because I swear to God that if you're going to say that we should 'mind our own business' and 'leave well enough alone' when there is a child's life at stake then I am going to hit you."
"Emma, calm down," Andrew said, glancing around uneasily. They were starting to attract attention. "Of course I'm not saying anything like that. Getting involved in other people's affairs is abominably rude but not worth endangering a child, of course it isn't."
"Then what's the problem?" Emma demanded.
"The problem is that all of this is speculation and we have no idea if this Sherlock is even a child!" Andrew reminded her. "In fact, I'm still not convinced that 'Sherlock' is a creature at all."
Emma stopped and looked embarrassed. "Ah, right. I just feel very strongly about these things, you understand."
Andrew nodded. "Of course I do." He glanced at his watch. "Lord, break's been over for five minutes now."
Andrew and Emma hurried back to work.
John, who had happened to be walking by at some point in their conversation and stayed to listen, just shook his head in bewilderment.
"Usually people think 'gay lovers'," he murmured. "I don't know if this is an improvement or not. Better ask Lestrade to talk to child services for me just in case. And maybe animal control; we wouldn't want a repeat of Thursday."